The Ario bowl is located in the Western massif of the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain.
Most expedition members fly to Asturias (aka Oviedo), Santander or Bilbao and either share a hire car or get the train/bus to Los Lagos. Sensible people with a lot of kit put their car on the ferry to Santander, hard-core nutters opt for the 20+ hour drive through France.
When you arrive at Los Lagos there are two car parks, an upper and a lower car park. If possible, head for the top car park where the bar tempts one last quaff of civilisation before heading into the mountains.
The path to Vega de Ario climbs about 600m and is surprisingly easy to get lost. First timers will be accompanied.
It’s a rough track and in places ankle deep mud. There are four notable climbs named Sod 1 to Sod 4. Typically, two carries are needed up to camp and much evening conversation will be spent discussing which Sod is the worst.
There is an excellent route guide to the walk available from OUCC’s Virtual Ario Path
Accommodation varies from year to year according to the needs of the expedition. In recent years, the Refugio de Ario has been used as expedition base. Team members can opt to sleep in the Refugio, or camp under the stars, similarly for food arrangements. It’s a balance between cost and lugging everything needed up the mountain. Don’t believe rumors about Donkeys and Horses, if they are available then they will be needed for expedition kit.
Expect to carry your caving kit, personal camp kit (including tent, stove and food if not using the Refugio), plus some part of the communal expedition kit. It’s a lot of kit! Every item has to pass the “Do I REALLY need this?” test. Most people end with two carries up the mountain and it isn’t practical to attempt two trips in a single day.
The carries are as tough as the caving!